The class of 2024 outside Kroon Hall on Commencement morning

Class of 2024: “You Will Be Leaders for Change”

The Class of 2024 celebrated their accomplishments at commencement ceremonies held at Old Campus and Kroon Courtyard on May 20. The 156 graduates are headed to positions at NGOs, corporations, governments, and academic institutions across the U.S. and the globe. 

Two YSE graduates celebrate commencement

Commencement 2024 Video and News Hub

Full coverage of Commencement 2024, including the highlights video, photo gallery, graduate spotlights, and the YSE ceremony livestream video.

They include 10 PhDs, 95 Master of Environmental Management, 33 Master of Environmental Science, 12 Master of Forestry, 5 Master of Forest Science, and 27 graduates receiving joint degrees. Members of the Class of 2024 who earned doctoral degrees have accepted positions in a wide array of organizations and academic institutions including the World Resources Institute, a faculty position at the New York Botanical Garden; and postdoctoral fellowships at Brown, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and University of California, Berkeley, among others. 

Many master’s graduates will be headed into doctoral degree programs, while others have accepted roles in a variety of environmental professions and sectors, including as an extension forester at Oregon State university; Environmental Law Fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Fund; chief policy advisor at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; Fulbright Public Policy Fellow in Bogotá, Colombia; and senior environmental specialist at Korea Export-Import Bank. 

Video: Highlights of Commencement 2024

“You will be leaders for change, and soon,” Dean Indy Burke told the graduates, who come from more than 20 U.S. states and 25 countries, during YSE’s 123rd commencement ceremony. “The sheer enormity of the capital you represent in intellect, knowledge, creativity, passion, energy, resourcefulness, and support for one another is immeasurable… In sum, we are collectively launching one of the world’s most powerful forces of environmental leadership into career paths across the planet.” 

At the start of the day, YSE graduates took part in Yale’s 323rd commencement ceremony at historic Old Campus where they were joined by more than 4,400 graduates from across the university.  

The students then returned to Kroon Courtyard for a diploma ceremony under the tent that included the conferral of degrees, an awards presentation, a musical performance by the LoggerRhythms, addresses by class speakers, and a pinning ceremony led by Alumni Association Board President Anne Peters ’76 MFS, who noted that the graduates are joining the more than 5,700 YSE alumni who are making an impact in the world. The ceremony was followed by a luncheon reception with family and friends. 

Our generation will be the first who begin repairing this relationship with their land … We will step out of this place, and our community will change the course of history.”

Jimena Terrazas Lozano ’24 MESc

The class speakers thanked their fellow classmates for their support and commitment to environmental and social justice and urged them to bring their energy into the world to  advance change. 

Manon Lefèvre, who received her doctorate in philosophy and who has accepted a position as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed to the historic moment in 1894 when the first women received their doctorates at Yale. Now, 130 years later, in 2024, the YSE doctoral graduates are all women, she noted. 

“Institutions, we know, are not built to change. They will not save us. In those moments in which they fail, our friendships do remain. In my time at Yale, my friends have organized together on climate action, endowment divestment, migrant protections, police disarmament, and a graduate student union, which we won,” Lefèvre said. “My hope for all of us is that we continue to cultivate the transformative friendships we have made here with care, and to remember the change-making power. 

Jane Jacoby ’24 MF/JD discussed the power of democracy and the importance of participation. Describing YSE as a “polis” (an ancient Greek city-state), she called on the class to think of the ballot box when addressing the myriad of environmental challenges. 

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“Like any moment of transition, commencements are funny things. Both endings and beginnings, they offer us a moment to reflect, while inviting us to imagine the future. How can we bring the best parts of this polis with us after today? That word, polis, hints at one answer: politics,” Jacoby said. “When you hear the word environment, you might picture our planet's majestic landscapes, or the great challenges we face, from plastic pollution to war. You might not picture a ballot box. I've heard many at YSE profess a kind of political nihilism, abandoning democratic change as a lost cause …But there are solutions. We have to stop treating political topics as something repulsive because true democracy thrives on the engagement of its citizens. And thanks to YSE, we can bring something more. Hope. …I'm asking each of you to carry that hope with you. Plant seeds with it wherever you land next.” 

Jimena Terrazas Lozano ’24 MESc referenced the Mexican Indigenous community’s battles against colonialism and the importance of land in identity. 

“Land represents one of the most powerful ties we have to our ancestors and those who will come after us. She keeps our stories and tells them to future generations,” she said. “Today, we are here because we share that in common. We and the land are inextricable, and we know that everything is an environmental issue. Poverty, inequality, and even war are all environmental issues. We believe in honoring that kinship we have with nature. Our generation will be the first who begin repairing this relationship with their land … We will step out of this place, and our community will change the course of history.” 

While enjoying the post-commencement reception in Kroon Courtyard, Elizabeth Nowlin ’24 MESc reflected on all the hard work that went into earning her degree, and the support she received from her family and the YSE community. Her regalia included cords representing environmental equity, military and veterans, LGBTQ+, and domestic students of color. 

“I think I am going to remember most the people who've really uplifted me and motivated me to keep going and highlighting the importance of seeing women of color in these spaces,” Nowlin said. “And I know that it's an achievement beyond just myself, an achievement for the communities of different people that I represent. It's a win for all of us.”  

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